Drinking Outside The Box

With Simon Woods – wine for people who have a life

A Tale of 2 Pinots February 27, 2009 at 11:24 pm

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Now I know that the Robert Mondavi Winery in California isn’t exactly this year’s news. But that’s part of what I’ve liked about the wines. Where there are some Californian reds that seem to want to out-brash people with their opulence and sophistication, the Mondavi style – having blazed the trail in the 1960s and 1970s – has been one that has been content to not be this year’s model. At times, if truth be told, it could have done with chasing the pack a little more closely, but part of me is glad that they stuck to their guns of making tasty, food-friendly wines that didn’t come out tops in blind tastings but that won the ’empty bottle’ test at the end of a wine-heavy dinner (in which people try a little of all the more boisterous wines, but settle on the more drinkable ones).

Tonight however, I’m a little disturbed by the Mondavi 2006 Pinot Noir Reserve (£24.99 Harrods, Whole Food Markets, Everywine.co.uk, Direct Wine). It’s rather bold and fleshy, and at 15% alcohol is far from being a shy fawn. On opening, I found it immediately appealing, with plush cherry and plum flavours, once you’d dug past the oak. But a couple of hours after opening, it wasn’t showing very many signs of becoming more complex and interesting – just because wine has a cleavage doesn’t mean you want to spend a lot of time with it. Although for a couple of hours….

So out of interest, I plucked a Burgundy from the cellar, Jean-Philippe Fichet Côte de Beaune Villages 1999. And where the Mondavi flattered on first acquaintance but than tailed off, this is a wine that’s done the opposite. Reticent on first opening, it’s turning into a charming companion, with lithe red berry flavours, a silky edge and a refreshing finish. And I know that that refreshing finish with its acidity is just what would put some people off the wine (even if they’d change their mind when they had it with some nosh). They’d prefer the more forward, grinning Mondavi style. Who is right? We all are, providing we keep our minds open.

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